Changing Room Chats: Meet The Queen Of Green

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Meet Nudea’s founder, Priya Downes. Having previously worked for the World Bank focusing on poverty and environmental projects she was a true champion for the importance of sustainability in fashion at time when sustainability wasn’t what it is today. Priya has brought her wealth of expertise to the world of commerce and spent 10 years working at top luxury brands before creating Nudea, a company with sustainability at its heart.
Obviously Nudea’s sustainability mission is core to your brand and values, could you talk about some of the key business practices that demonstrate your commitment to this?
From the outset, we have been committed to our ‘CareMore’ ethos of ‘buy less and care more’ by refusing to compromise on quality and having sustainable and ethical business practices at heart.

We are a carbon-neutral company and the team is extremely proud to have recently achieved B Corp status so early in the brand’s journey.

Our products are thoughtfully-designed to last longer and responsibly manufactured out of premium fabrics crafted from recycled yarns, with all components including fabrics and trims sourced and manufactured within Europe.

The brand’s commitment to sustainability also promotes conscious, responsible shopping, signature recycled fabric and yarns, a thoughtfully-designed selection of styles made in partnership with responsible suppliers paying fair living wages, produced in a GOTS and SLCP fully-certified factories and all delivered in recycled and recyclable packaging.


With the underwear industry known for being very unsustainable [e.g. difficult to recycle technical garments], how difficult have you found it to integrate sustainable priorities into your decision making and business practices? Have you found this approach incurs higher costs?

We tackled the hardest part first - manufacturing and product. This is a challenge, particularly for bras which have over 20 components, sourcing responsibly is a big challenge and we certainly have a lot more work to do to source and deliver each component more responsibly. We started with fabrics as this is the least reusable part of the bra once worn (think about how your bra stretches or how often you wear your briefs, it's not possible to donate used underwear the same way as other clothes) so finding better fabrics goes a long way.

Another priority was consumer education about buying less and caring more. We have all experienced online purchasing in a big way over the pandemic, this leads to more packaging, lorries on the road and then returns. We invest in upfront fitting so customers can find their best fit upfront, so they aren’t buying multiple sizes and returning at a high rate. We also go to lengths to educate our customers on investing in quality and how to care for the product, providing a wash bag with every purchase and creating a care kit to prolong the life of your bra.

Finally convincing our shareholders that a triple bottom line approach is not always easy, sometimes you are considering higher cost prices and new expensive technology that is still in the beta phase. Encouraging people to buy less and care more, which goes against the grain of building volume sales. We are lucky that we have long term value building shareholders who understand that the prices that retailers historically paid were wrong and in 2 years time there will be penalties for not doing things more sustainably - so in the long term it's the right thing to do for the business.


What have you found the most difficult aspect or area of your business to change as part of your sustainability mission?

Consumer education around sustainability. Sadly there is a lot of greenwashing, consumers are bombarded with green messages and it's hard for them to know what's really making a difference so the industry is actually making people more skeptical and at worse numb to it. We all need to be honest about what we do and what we don’t do, this is the only way we help consumers make the right decision.

This is another reason B Corp certification is great to have achieved, as it's recognised by consumers and instantly understood (most of the time).


You were recently certified as a B corp - are there any areas that this process highlighted for improvement that you hadn’t expected and will now prioritise moving forwards?

Nudea announced its B Corp certification in March 2022, with an exemplary B Impact Score of 103*. B Corp is one of the most demanding certifications that evaluates brands’ social and environmental impact, with over 300 questions on governance, workers, communities and impact on the environment. It is the result of a collective work at Nudea that started in April 2021 and through 10 months of rigorous auditing and legals. Nudea is proud to be one of only three UK underwear brands to have met the rigorous social and environmental standards set by B Lab, and to be a part of this drive for change in the fashion industry and to change the world, one bra at a time.

One of the things that I respect most about the B Corp certification is it’s holistic approach, which really challenges you to think about ALL areas of your business. This means even thinking about the HR process, and for a young company with no HR department this is a challenge, but an important one. I’m really pleased that B Corp set us off on the right foot thinking about can we be MORE diverse, how can we challenge ourselves to be more inclusive and create policies that truly take care of the people that work with us. This is something we want to continue evolving.

*The median score for ordinary businesses who complete the B Impact assessment is 50.9 and over 80 qualifies for B Corp certification.


Have you identified any ways in which you could improve the supply chain to retail, specifically to reduce the environmental impact?

Our packaging is already made from recycled and recyclable materials and that includes our shipping to retailers. We are also about to introduce URBIT delivery options to our customers, which is a delivery option to those living in city centres which deliver using public transport only. We are thinking about using this for retailers as well.

Finally, we are starting to think about POS support for retailers but we are challenging ourselves to think about more eco friendly options e.g hangers and also rail options that are unique but also planet friendly!

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